The Friends of Dame Laura Knight Society,

Malvern & Colwall Branch

Notes on a talk, given by,

Dr Pamela Gerrish Nunn - "The Children of Laura Knight"

November 2nd 2019


Dr Gerrish Nunn

Women artists were expected to paint pictures of children, and this was considered a suitable subject.  DLK however sought opportunities which this subject matter offered.  She painted a number of paintings at the outset of her career in which children took centre-stage.

DLK was always interested in everyday realism and she expanded her subject of the world of children to include the family.  During her stay at Staithes this becomes very evident as she depicts women doing their everyday tasks as wife/mother/ housekeeper etc.  She seems at this point to be happy to be associated with this theme, but not to be stereotyped by it.

Her time in Laren in the Netherlands was a time of consolidation and of taking note of the work of other painters – although her alleged ignorance of, for example, the Night Watch and the work of French women painters is interesting for a painter who set out to learn and develop her style.

From 1907 she began to extend her compositions and these began to seem more ‘beefed up’; less quietly domestic.  Her stay in Cornwall includes more portraits and compositions showing the influence on her of impressionism.  She develops the idea of the child’s consciousness – her work features children looking very directly at the viewer, and in the portrait of the Lamorna Birch family, both children are painted occupying their own individual worlds.

Children continue to be an important part of her work pre and post war.  Their compositional contact point with the viewer continues to be important and they are often used to ‘anchor’ a part of the composition – Sennen Cove and By the Sea.  

Her portraits develop in the 30s and 40s and she can be seen to be painting the ‘modern child’.

She seems not to be aware, artistically, of the Madonna and Child iconography.  This is intriguing and of a piece with the enigmatic elements of her autobiography where she relates comments about her work, but does not elaborate on what she was aware of in other artists or their influence on her.
- Diana Stockford